Today I thought I’d dive into a topic that is a little bit personal. As part of my travel blog, I think the biggest part of traveling is learning about different cultures and loving them.
You may or may not know that I am an African woman married to the most amazing Scottish/English man alive. Notice that the title of this series is not ‘interracial’ but is ‘intercultural’ marriage. Why? Well, the race has never been an issue for us. He has pink skin and I have brown skin, but the color of our skin has NEVER once been an issue nor has it ever had an impact on our relationship whatsoever. I mean, my husband could have been the blackest man on the planet and I would still fall in love with him the exact same way.
This is going to be a series posted on the blog every Wednesday until I have nothing more to say on the topic. I have noticed that a lot of people are curious about mixed relationships and how they work.
I don’t know about other relationships but I shall tell you about ours. First of all, our hearts were molded for each other. It was a match only heaven could make which is why we somehow found each other even against the odds. Our cultures, on the other hand, are as different as night and day. Merging English/Scottish and African cultures is nothing short of interesting and I am going to explain why.
Most people who write about intercultural relationships always highlight the challenges involved in them and why people must think ten times before they decide to dive into one.
I am here to share my honest first-hand experience being in an intercultural marriage for almost 4 years and counting.
You see, in my culture, a woman must always show the deepest respect and submission to her husband. To a traditionalist, a man good enough to marry you is like gold. If you find him, you do whatever it takes to keep him. It’s no wonder many African women live silently in polygamous marriages- for fear of losing the precious men that are good enough to marry them.
In my grandmother’s day and even today is culturally expected of a woman to serve her husband’s food first and kneel down while doing so.
I know at this moment, many of you have your hands over your mouths in disbelieve. Yes, women in my culture kneel before their men or anyone else in a position of authority. That is how we were raised and I have never really minded kneeling for the people I loved and respected. It’s the ones I didn’t like or respect that I had a problem getting down on my knees for. Nonetheless, it had and still has to be done. I am 28 years old and I still instinctively fall onto my knees when greeting aunties, uncles, grandparents and their neighbors regardless of whether I like them, know them or respect them. If I don’t kneel, I am not only ashaming myself as a woman but also my parents who should have ‘raised me right: Think of it this way, its the equivalent of someone sticking their hand out to greet you and you don’t give yours back. This is the western world is considered outright rude. It’s the same thing when it comes to kneeling while greeting in my culture.
Anyway, whenever my hubby and I visit my grandmother, she gets down on her 87-year-old knees to greet him, completely ignoring all protests for her to do so. She makes a special meal whenever she knows we are coming which might not seem like much but she is an 87-year-old woman and is barely able to cook food over a really short charcoal stove. (See below for charcoal stove)
When food is ready, my grandma calls me into the kitchen and hands me a special plate on a special tray with a cold glass of fresh handmade juice and instructs me to take it to my husband.
She follows me to the living room and when she spots me handing the tray to my husband while standing on my two feet, she quickly intervenes and very quickly gestures to me to get down on my knees. I very reluctantly get down on both knees while my husband smiles on, not bothering to hide his amusement. My grandma and the rest of the family look on with amusement too. It sounds like a mortifying experience but it is really just a good laugh. My grandma makes her rounds through every single one of my married sisters and cousins and everyone gets a turn to serve their husband’s food on bended knees.
Before you pull out your feminism guns, relax. We don’t feel oppressed or undermined at all, if anything, we are all educated women who have respectable jobs in society. None of us really mind. It is hilarious.
For our family, it is just a good laugh. For my poor hubby, however, it is mortifying to be given that much majesty but he respects that he married into a different culture and rather than dread and belittle it, he chooses to embrace it and find amusement in these episodes. It’s called compromise- marriage rule 101.
Tables turn when we cross the ocean to the other side of the world and I find myself in a big European fix. Every woman here bakes and cooks extremely exotic food that I cannot even pronounce. Since coming to Ireland in 2016, I am yet to meet a woman (mostly wives and mothers) that has no special recipe for some fancy dish.
The other day, my hubby jokingly told me I have to learn how to bake for when we have kids. I mean his mother used to make the bread they ate every day, the cakes for every occasion and dessert at every dinner. Having a great cook and baker for a mother is almost like a right of passage in the western world.
Personally, I prefer to buy out and support local businesses. It’s the likes of me that keep the economy going guys. Where I am from you have a different guy whenever you need plumbing, painting, lawn mowing, cooking, cleaning, landscaping, driving, etc. I cross the ocean and I become ‘the guy’. 😭
Anyway, the question now is, am I going to have to learn my way around baking trays, pans and powder in order to be a great mum and wife in Europe?
The interest I have in baking is literally in the negatives. I can barely stand normal day to day cooking, let alone actual pro-style baking.
However, maybe it’s my turn to compromise a bit. I have cooked almost every day for the past two years since we moved to Ireland and I have somehow managed to con myself into slightly enjoying cooking.
Now the next big hurdle is to learn how to bake fancy pastries and cakes. I mean when in Rome and all.
Fortunately for me, my best friend is the most amazing cook and baker I know. Before I am a mum, I will ask her to teach how to bake a few things so I can kick the whole mum thing outta the park. The day you see a photo of something I have baked, you will know babies are not far off in the near future. 🙃
How is that for a compromise?
If you have any good beginner recipes that you are happy to share with me, please do.
Anyway, we have managed to learn, respect and merge each other’s cultures however extreme they might seem. I mean I would sooner kneel down for a stranger than bake a cake but compromise is the name of the marriage game.
What are your opinions on this guys? I would love to hear them.
Next week, I will dive into the positive aspects of my intercultural marriage and why I absolutely LOVE it.
My grandma schooling me on how to ‘resepct’ my husband when we visited in December 😂